Katie Cole Nagavi
Our lives are made up of moments, like snapshots we take in our minds. We carry clear pictures in our minds of the most significant times. The small every day moments tend to fade. But it’s really these seemingly insignificant moments that lead to the big ones. The small moments help us create a map of our world. They get us to our destination.
When I was young, my world was small but wonderful. I grew up surrounded by loving family and friends in Northern Kentucky. My world consisted of school, music and dance.
When I was in 7th grade, a family friend entered the Peace Corp. He joined us for dinner one night before his departure. During dinner, he described the Peace Corp – I was in awe of it. He may have only said a few sentences, but with his words, my world grew.
Around the time of my gradation, my high school, Notre Dame Academy, opened a sister school in Uganda. I knew nothing about this country, but my interest was sparked. I began to read about Kampala, Idi Amin and the LRA. And my world grew again.
I attended Xavier University for a variety of reasons, among which was the university’s emphasis on Social Justice and service. During an amazing four years, I made small decisions that changed the map of my world. I made the decision to join clubs like ConneXions and Justice. I made the decision to study abroad in Rome. My world didn’t just grow; it opened up.
During my third year at Xavier, one of my English professors approached me after class. She asked if I had considered applying for the Brueggeman Fellowship. Her comment made me rethink an opportunity that I had already written off. But because my professor’s comments, I applied. The conversation we had was the beginning of my journey to Kenya. Now my world was opened and I could go and explore it, not fearless, but ready.
When I returned from Kenya, I felt ready to tackle my new teaching career. I taught 7th grade for one year. During this year, my world changed once again. I made the decision one evening to grade papers at a coffee shop instead of going back to my apartment. It was that night in October that I met my future husband, Amir Nagavi. We created a new world together. We married the following year and moved to Cleveland for Amir’s residency. In Cleveland, I met wonderful people from all over the world through teaching GED and ESL. I also began work as a Reading Health Consultant.
In September 2009, Amir and I welcomed our daughter, Layla Colette, into the world. We moved to Dallas, Texas in 2011. And now, I have the most wonderful responsibility: helping my daughter explore a whole new world.
It is the small moments, these minute decisions that really made me who I am today.
I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya during June and July of 2007. I stayed at the Tumaini Center, a retreat center for Catholic nuns from all over Africa. During my stay, I worked at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, a school for AIDS orphans. Almost all of the students at the school have had one or both parents die from AIDS or AIDS related diseases. St. Al’s is located in Kibera, a very large slum of Nairobi. My main work was to set up the school’s library. I also was allowed to teach English classes to Form One (Freshmen) students. While I did research the education systems in Kenya, my main research focused on the lives of the students. I supplied six students with a disposable camera, a journal and a pen. The students were given a month to express their thoughts, dreams, and lives through their own unique images and words. I compiled all of their writings into a book entitled Kibera Journals.
What They're Doing Now
I live in Coppell, Texas with my husband, Amir, our two-year-old daughter, Layla, and our dog, Frankie. I currently stay at home with Layla. I also continue to work from home as a Reading Health Consultant for Project Learn, a Cleveland-based non-profit organization. As Layla heads to preschool this fall, I look forward to devoting more time to writing and working on my novel-in-progress.